Stanley Mattson’s C. S. Lewis Foundation has some truly elegant prospectus packets (videotape and audiotape included) for wealthy prospective donors and has been known to send them by overnight mail. In contrast, his 9 July 1999 mass mailing was apparently designed to appeal to his least affluent and sophisticated donors. It has a relatively modest format, lacking the high-quality paper, formal letterhead, and professional brochures of his typical mass mailings. This rather humble four-page letter begins by announcing that never before in his foundation’s ten-year history has he issued an emergency appeal.
“A serious loss of credibility threatens to undo years of work in order to encourage the formation of a serious Christian presence within the mainstream of the academic world and beyond. What does one do? … Eliminate essential staff? Close the doors? Cancel this summer’s already funded all-volunteer work on The Kilns restoration in order to concentrate on fund raising? Delay the launch of Project Ransom? Maintain silence as we anguish over unpaid bills? Conduct a very time consuming special fund raising event? It is not easy to come up with a ‘right’ answer.”
Instead of asking for a $1000 donation, this time, he asks for “a truly generous gift of $190.” That, he says, is the total amount of his foundation’s immediate need divided by the number of its closest friends. (He does not divulge the total need or the number of closest friends; but since this is a mass mailing, at least 1000 closest friends is a fair guess. If there are 1000 closest friends, the immediate need in July was $190,000.) “Please rush your special emergency gift to me in the amount of $190, whether by check, VISA, Mastercard, or Discover card. Be assured, however, that no amount is too small (or, for that matter, too large).”
After his signature, Stan Mattson adds, “P. S. This is the most important Foundation letter I’ve ever written. The future of the C. S. Lewis Foundation is genuinely at stake. I do need your help and I need it now.